Thursday, October 31, 2013


Halloween, October 31, "hallowed" or "holy evening." More properly, All Hallows Eve, the day before All Hallows Day on November 1, and All Saints Day on November 2. Thus today is the first of a trio of Christian holy days which were once recognized collectively as Hallowmas or Hallowtide, three successive days of feast and celebration—holy days of obligation—and the time in the liturgical year dedicated to honoring the dead…recognized saints (hallows), martyrs, and departed believers.

Of course our modern Halloween bears little resemblance to this ancient observance, having during its many-centuries-long metamorphosis picked up traditions and influences from various sources—particularly those found throughout Scotland and Ireland—especially encompassing aspects of the old Celtic harvest festivals and the Gaelic Samhain. Over the last half-century the media—Hollywood, the movies and T.V.—have so reinvented and transformed Halloween that there's scarcely a single original recognizable aspect remaining.

Ahh-h, well…

Trick or treat. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Yesterday evening I made a quick run to the grocery section of the big-box retailer across the river. My mission was a sack of White Lily flour for the extraordinarily toothsome—if admittedly somewhat peculiar sounding—apple-pie-in-a-bag Myladylove was busy preparing. Flour and some French vanilla ice cream to go with the pie. 

After after a day spent working in the yard, we'd decided this wonderful pie, à la mode, would constitute our supper. Not merely dessert; the meal in its entirety. I figured, in order to make sure of covering my nutritional needs, I'd better count on partaking of seconds…possibly thirds.

Oh, I also needed to pick up a brown paper bag. Can't bake an apple-pie-in-a-bag if you always carry your groceries home in plastic.     

I will admit it is indeed handy, when such moods strike and you realize you're missing several critical ingredients, to have such a modern emporium nearby. Everything from dog treats to motor oil to a wedge of sharp cheddar available for the effort of a brief drive. Downstream, across the bridge, back upstream along the main thoroughfare which parallels the stream—though at a blessedly fair distance from the water. Perhaps a mile-and-a-half by road, or a third that from here as the crow flies.  

A short trip which takes you from our practically rural setting to garish, congested suburbia. Yet two worlds which remain unreservedly separated by a dense, hundred-yard band of old riparian woods along each bank. Plus, on the far side, a wide park beyond the trees, additionally bordered by a tangled weedfield, and finally an intervening hill that cuts off any sight or sound of highway traffic, businesses and their parking lots.

I do sometimes feel like Pa, on Little House on the Prairie, taking the buckboard and making the monthly, day-long journey to town for supplies. Except for me, it's three minutes each way.  

The sun was long down, light fast giving way to darkness. A waxing Hunter's Moon, nearing three-quarters full and bright as new silver, had rolled high above the trees. To the west, a painted sky was done up in autumnal oranges, reds, pinks, and yellows, decorated with hints of purple and blue. An undulating vee of geese, so far off they looked like a wavering cross-stitch on luminescent silk, appeared to be heading for the river beyond the hill.

When I reached the store's concrete façade, I was surprised by the sudden feel of it's radiated heat. Like walking close to an oven. Which reminded of the delectable pie soon to come and thus the necessity to hustle at my errand. 

In case the notion of baking your own apple-pie-in-a-bag strikes you as eminently worthwhile—and I assure you, your time will be well spent—here's Myladylove's recipe: 

6 or 7 medium apples, peeled and sliced (We used Winesap, but Granny Smith or your favorite baking variety works just as well.)
2 Tbs. flour
1/2 c. cane sugar
3/4 tsp. cinnamon

Mix flour, sugar, and cinnamon, then toss together with the readied apples. Place in 9-inch unbaked pie shell. (A little heaping is fine.)    

1/2 c. melted butter
1/2 c. cane sugar
1/2 c. flour

Spread over apples on top, coating evenly. This becomes the pie's top shell. Using a baking sheet in case of over-bubbles, insert pie into brown paper bag. (Myladylove always places the bag on its side—horizontal instead of sitting upright.) Fold bag top closed and secure with paper clips or staples. Put on rack in the center of pre-heated 400˚ oven, taking care the paper bag doesn't come in contact with the oven's interior surface. Bake for 1 hour. Remove, cut away bag. Allow to cool to the level of your lip-pain tolerance…add whipped cream, ice cream, or nothing whatsoever should you prefer yours straight. Enjoy. Repeat as necessary.

And before you worry and ask…

No, the bag won't catch on fire.

No, baking in a brown paper bag doesn't give the pie a "funny" taste.

No, I haven't a clue who might have come up with such an odd baking method in the first place—or why—but it works, and scrumptiously well.                                         

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


Morning sun lights up a dew drop on the tip of a bamboo leaf.

Thick clouds of mist hung over the water early this morning when I took Moon-the-Dog out. Now the sun has dissipated those rather mysterious swirling blankets of river fog—and much of the dew, which sparkled like bits of diamonds on everything from leaves to grass, has also all but vanished.

I was glad to see that sometime during night the river peaked. I'm always surprised how quickly this reversal can occur. Yet that's the usual drill…slow to rise, fast to recover. Now the water is almost back down to normal pool. And while not clear, murky rather than muddy. 

For the past few days I've been working on sorting through various boxes of cards, manuscripts, photos, notes, business cards, brochures, ticket stubs, clippings, magazines, booklets. The paper detritus of several decades of work. At last half the stuff can be tossed into the trash without a second glance. But a lot of things deserve saving—or at least a final, closer look before discarding. And this winnowing is not without a rather hefty emotional toll. 

After five or six hours of it yesterday, I had to quit—overpowered by memories. Letters from family and friends no longer around. A mirror in accumulated bits and pieces reflecting both good and bad of a great portion of my life. Reminders of times and places and people forever gone, decisions wrongly made, roads not taken—and overall, of time's relentless passage. 

You can only take so much of this depressing déjà vu in a given dose; at least that's my case. A box, maybe two, per day…that's my limit. And there are a lot of boxes.             

Monday, October 7, 2013


Yesterday's rain ended during the night. The river is muddy and still rising, albeit slowly, and thankfully doesn't appear headed to crest much higher than halfway up the bank. Not in the least worrisome. Moreover, it's been sunny all day…and while cooler, still a weather change more in keeping with the season.

As is the norm hereabouts when it comes to the donning of the annual autumnal colors, scads of maples up the road are proudly showing their fancy hues. Oranges, reds, yellows, golds.

Meanwhile, streamside views remain mostly green. A few yellowish hackberry leaves. A treetop patch of brown sycamore leaves exquisitely backlit by the westering sun. And most eye-catching of all, the scarlet flames of Virginia creeper spiraling up the trunk of the massive sycamore which leans over the pool across from the cottage. 

Which makes me wonder—are the trees and shrubs, vines and bushes of this floodplain corridor woods just being slow or are they turning stubborn? Do they feel, deep in their photosynthesizing hearts a reluctance to let go, an opposition to giving into the pull of change? Are they so accustomed to resisting the flow of the river, they can't help but resist the flow of the season? 

Well, I understand, not being a fan of change myself. But maybe it's not so much about resisting the change—merely about bucking the schedule. 

Change? Sure…when I get ready to change. But not a minute sooner! 

As a contrary Irishman, with a bullheaded streak a mile wide—just ask anyone!—I understand that, too. 

Sunday, October 6, 2013


As I write this, at the moment exactly 4:00 p.m. on the first Sunday of October, the rain is pouring down. It has been raining off and on all day—in fact, most of the night—though not nearly so hard. Thunder is rumbling off in the distance. Between the rain and dense cloud cover, the world beyond is only dimly lit. Looking outside, you'd think it was at least a couple hours later.

This is our first heavy rain in some months. The river is up and rising…though where it will mark its highpoint depends on how much rain is coming down throughout the upper reaches of the watershed. A fact that remains out of our awareness and control, though not out of our mind. But a condition of the riverside life that doubtless strikes many as foolish, reckless, naïve, or some such similar negative adjective, depending on their philosophical view of a life lived where Big Government isn't expected—or desired—to be in control of every aspect of life—including the freedom to get washed away, should it come to that.

Not that I expect such a fate this time around. Already, the rain has ceased. Here. Of course it may still be pouring upstream…or dry as bone. 

I have a big pot of just-made vegetable soup cooling on the stove. I used ham, onions, garlic, celery, potatoes, tomatoes, carrots, and three kinds of beans—green, cannellini, black. Plus a fat parsnip for a touch more sweetness. I also did some croutons—deli-baked multigrain bread, cubed, spritzed with olive oil, salted and seasoned, toasted, then afterwards, sprinkled with Parmesan cheese. Homemade soup and slices of the just-picked apples—tart, crispy, juicy—I bought at the farm market yesterday will make us a fine supper.

Yes, I know this post is mostly about nothing, while the photo doesn't seem to fit. But I made the shot just down the road from the cottage this past Wednesday, using my iPhone, on the way to the viewing for the husband of one of Myladylove's favorite co-workers—killed when hit by a truck as he crossed the road to check the mailbox.

The funeral home was packed. More than a thousand friends and family members filing through, paying their respects. And like us, everyone seemed in a state of shock from the unexpected suddenness. The couple had just bought their dream retirement place—a little farm in a nearby county. He'd recently taken early retirement. Their future appeared golden. It all seemed so unfair.

Alas, the only good I know that can come from such a heartbreaking and depressing tragedy is an unambiguous reminder that life is a precious gift, one we should never take for granted, but must always strive to live as best we can—in grace and courage, joy and love—every single moment.

So today I've made soup—because both Myladylove and I needed a bit of uplifting…not so much from the dreariness of the day's weather, but from the dreariness and sorrow of the week's circumstances.